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Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Date: May 21st, 2023

Location: Wenyu River, Beijing

During my field trip to Wenyu River in May, I spotted the overt presence of the grey heron, a species famous for its graceful neck and unique hunting habit. Their primary hunting method is known as "standing and waiting," which involves the heron standing motionless or slowly wading in shallow water, such as lakes, rivers, or marshes, while keeping a vigilant and close eye on the surroundings. When prey passes by, the heron seizes the opportunity and swiftly strikes its prey. Using its long, sharp bill as a spear, it extends its neck forward and spears fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and even insects. The heron's bill is adapted for quick and precise movements, allowing it to snatch prey with remarkable accuracy.

The grey heron is a type of wading bird of the heron family and is considered one of the least concerned species. It nests communally in tall trees and is typically fairly noticeable in wetland habitats such as marshes, tidal flats, tiny ponds, ditches, and wet fields. This species often stands silently in or near water, alone or in small groups. It is native to Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa and can inhabit various locations with appropriate aquatic environments that provide them with food. While they are primarily prevalent in lowland areas, they can also be found in high-altitude mountain tarns, lakes, reservoirs, rivers of varying sizes, marshes, ponds, ditches, flooded regions, coastal lagoons, estuaries, and seashores. Occasionally, they venture away from water sources to search for sustenance in pastures, and surprisingly, they can even be spotted in desert regions, where they feed on beetles and lizards.

The grey heron possesses distinctive physical characteristics. It has a tall stature, standing upright with a height ranging from 90 to 100 centimeters (35 to 39 inches). Its plumage is predominantly grey, hence its name, with a pale grey or white face and a long, slender neck. Moreover, a distinctive feature of the grey heron is that its head features a sharp, pointed bill, typically yellow in color, and the eyes are bright yellow or amber.

The heron's body is slim and elongated, with long legs often colored yellow or grey. Its wings are broad and rounded, providing excellent flight capabilities. When in flight, the heron extends its neck and legs, showcasing its graceful appearance. Additionally, it has long, dagger-like claws that aid in grasping prey.

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